Posted on

My Miniature Process Part 3: Software

Twenty five years ago, even after a few years making miniatures, my two basic tools were a Microlux Table Saw (which I still use) and a Northwest Short Line True Sander (again, which I still use). The only woods I had were purchased from MicroMark. Working with a two-page illustration in a magazine describing how a roll top desk was constructed, I managed to create this:

I can’t remember exactly how long it took me, but it must have been a couple of months. I started with one part and cut each piece guessing at the size. I made a lot of mistakes and had to make some pieces multiple times before getting it right. Construction by trial and error.

A couple of years ago, before my return to miniature making, I got into 3D printing. My design needs led me to Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. I learned to use Fusion 360, which is free for students and hobbyists. When I finally began to design and make miniature furniture it suited my needs perfectly. It allows me to design both simple and complex pieces without any trial and error. Here’s a screenshot showing the piece I’m currently working on:

This took me about five weeks to finish designing. Once that was done, all 175+ parts were exported into a line drawing file, sorted by size. Here are all the parts that will be .08″ thick:

After outputting this to a PDF file I imported it into Vcarve Desktop. This program is for designing and cutting parts on a CNC router. Each part is primarily assigned cuts for routing pockets and profiles. You have to define the size and type of the cutting bits as well as the depths of cuts, among other parameters. The wood I was using was 2″ x 9″ so I had to separate all these parts into five different jobs. Here’s one of them:

Before exporting the code to the CAM software that runs the CNC machine you can preview how the cutting job will look:

Once I was satisfied with the results. it generates a text file (sometime tens of thousands of lines long) for the Mach3 software I use to drive my homemade CNC. I will highlight that in a future post.